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There is no movie that captures the struggles, joys and tribulations a

teenager faces more than The Breakfast Club. This 1984 film, directed by John
Hughes, is the story of five high schoolers completing a Saturday detention (all for
different reasons) and dealing with the wrath of the ego-fueled principle. Each one
has their own characteristics and holds a certain stereotype: a jock, a nerd, a
popular princess, a criminal and a basket-case. Living in their own worlds, the five
have never met before, and at the beginning of the story, they dont plan on getting
too acquainted; this will soon change, as each of them begin to disclose their
stories. They appear be different in several ways, yet the group discovers that they
share the same issues with growing up, dealing with family, managing school and
trying to find their place in the world. This movie has the ability to make the viewer
laugh, cry and to think about their own lives. Not only is The Breakfast Club an
extraordinary story, it also explores many aspects of developmental psychology. In
this assignment however, one theory in particular will be discussed more in depth.
Psychosocial Theory was introduced by Erik Erikson (1902-1991). Unlike the
Psychodynamic Theory created by Sigmund Freud, which focused on sexual or
aggressive drives within the individual, Erikson believed that there were more
factors to consider. He established the idea that we develop through eight different
stages throughout our lifespan. Each stage held a different crisis that the individual
must resolve; these crises are age-related. How successful the person handles the
issue, somewhat foreshadows how well they will solve the next crisis. If the person
handles each situation well, the outcome of the next crisis and future psychological
development that comes with it will be positive. Nonetheless, if the person fails to
work through their crises, further development will be hindered. As well, each
individual will gain certain skills and resources with solving each challenge that they

can utilize in the future. Seeing as the main characters in the movie are teenagers,
the crisis of identity/identity diffusion (adolescence) will be discussed. In this
challenge, the person must discover who they are and create their own identity. If
they fail to do so, they become confused with who they are and how they fit in the
world. Another crisis that is present within the story is intimacy/isolation. In this task
the individual must develop relationships with other people by trusting them or by
using appropriate social skills. Failing to achieve this could cause vulnerability or
isolation from society. Each character will be evaluated based on these concepts.
The first main character is John Bender . Bender, as he is normally called, is
the typical bad boy; a criminal to some. Serving detention for pulling the fire
alarm, he joins the others on that Saturday morning. His clothes are disheveled, his
language is vile and his attitude is that of a rebel. It seems that Bender does not
play by the rules, especially the rules set by the schools principle, Mr. Vernon.
Bender has been tormenting Mr. Vernon since the moment he entered high school .
They are each others worst enemies, and their behaviour towards each other
doesnt fail to show it. It seems that Bender has little care for school and the
students that go there. He vandalizes school property and causes disarray wherever
he goes. Bender is also somewhat of a bully, especially to the unpopular kids;
students such as Brian who is a bit of a nerd. As the viewer is introduced to
Bender and his personality, it is hard not to completely write him off as a burnout.
Nevertheless, as Bender begins to talk to the rest of the group, and shares a little
about himself, we learn that there is more to him that meets the eye. On the
outside, Bender may appear to not care about fitting in, but in reality he wants to be
accepted somehow. He says to Andrew in a joking manner that I want to be just
like you. There could however be a bit of truth to his statement. Deep down,

Bender is just looking for people to see him as he really is and to be able to fit in
within his school. Bender also confides in the group that he is a victim of physical
and verbal abuse from his parents. This is one of the many reasons why he is so
aggressive and disrespectful, especially towards his superiors. All of Benders
examples can be linked to the intimacy/isolation conflict. Bender has a difficult time
maintaining relationships with his family that it impedes him from having any other
healthy relationships, causing him to mask his emotions with a hard and hostile
exterior.
Claire Standish, who is in detention for skipping school to go shopping, is
quite the opposite of Bender. Claire holds the title of the popular princess. She is
involved in many social clubs, her reputation is pristine and she is in favour to win
prom queen. Her family is also well off financially. On the outside it appears that
Claire has her life all together, but that is far from the truth. We soon find out that
Claires parents are in the middle of a divorce, and both her mother and father use
Claire as a way to get back at one another. Because of this vicious cycle, Claire has
difficulty finding her own self-worth. She is unable to love herself, and has the need
to seek the approval from others. Claires personal dilemma is a prime example of
the identity/identity diffusion crisis. She has been defined by her parents as merely
a tool in their separation. Although she lacks self-confidence, Claire still has the
tendency to look down on people who are not as high on the social hierarchy as she
is, and this causes some conflict within the group. At one point in the movie, Brian
calls Claire conceited when she tells them that she believes that the unpopular
kids look up to her and her clique. Claires battle between feeling inadequate and
vain gives Bender a reason to tease her, and to make her feel ashamed of coming
from a wealthy family. She enjoys being rich and popular but at the same time she

feels that she must act a certain way in order to stay well-liked among her friends .

During a scene when the group expresses their own feelings about their
cliques, Claire shares, I hate it. I hate having to go along with everything my
friends say. For Claire, the conflict of finding her own identity proves to be
difficult, especially when she feels pressure from her friends and family to conform.
Another character in The Breakfast Club is Andrew Clark . Andrew is the
athletic one among the group. He is an active member in the wrestling team and
he is one of the top athletes in the school. With this athletic ability comes popularity
and the pressure to be the best. Andrew is enjoying his high school career, however
he resents his father. Andrew found himself in this detention for a very unusual and
cruel wrongdoing: he taped an unsuspecting boys buns together in the locker
room, thinking it would be a joke and it would make his father proud . He is always
trying to fulfil his fathers high standards and seeking his approval when it comes to
wrestling and how he presents himself; this has caused Andrew to have extreme
hatred toward his father. In the library, Andrew talks about his father and the effect
he has on him, its all because of me and my old man. Oh God, I fucking hate
him! Hes like this...hes like this mindless machine that I cant even relate to
anymore Andrew, youve got to be number one! I wont tolerate any losers in this
family Andrew shows that he is facing an identity/identity diffusion challenge, it
is difficult for him to make his own decisions without his fathers guidance or
approval, and he feels ashamed because of it. Due to all of this pressure from his
father, Andrew has acted aggressively even outside of his wrestling matches. The
constant need to start fights with Bender during detention and the prank he pulled
on his schoolmate are just a couple of instances that demonstrates his aggression.

It seems that Andrew may have a strong physical body, yet his sense of self and the
ability to stand up for himself is weak.
Brian Johnson is known as the nerd. He takes his academic studies very
seriously, and since most stereotypical characteristics are prevalent in this movie,
Brians popularity status is low. To the rest of the group, he has a cookie-cutter life
at home. His mother still packs him a nutritious lunch every day, he earns straight
As and holds aspirations and goals for his future. This however is far from the case
according to Brian. Brian feels an astronomical amount of pressure from his parents
to do well in school, that it almost causes him to lose himself all together. Brian is in
detention because he brought an air gun to school with the intention to commit
suicide. He had just got his first F in shop class which would sabotage his perfect
A-plus average and ruin his chances of getting into the college of his choice. All selfconfidence has been lost, and Brian does not like who he is anymore. The only
motivation he has is his ability to achieve excellent grades; however, receiving a
low grade caused him to feel as though his future dreams were out of reach. Brian is
currently dealing with an identity/identity diffusion crisis, he feels he is only
identified by his parents and his peers by his grades. He has such an immense
amount of pressure put on him that he has lost his zest for life to the point where he
is ashamed of who he is. He sadly admits to the group, when I look at myself you
know? And I see me and I dont like what I see, I really dont. As the group shares
their own stories, Brian realizes that other people have it harder than him, which
gives him a spark of confidence. Maybe things will work out after all.
The final character in the Breakfast Club is Allison Reynolds. She is definitely
the wildcard among the group, and the most odd. Allison is a girl with few words,
and when she does speak, it is either to defend herself or to share a peculiar

comment. At first, it is difficult for the group to figure her out, for she is extremely
reticent; nevertheless, she dumps the belongings from her purse in front of Brian
and Andrew, which seems like a desperate attempt to be heard. Allison suffers from
loneliness and extreme boredom, that she came to Saturday detention because she
had nothing better to do. Allisons situation is a perfect example of the
intimacy/isolation conflict. Her family ignores her and she finds her home life
unsatisfying. Because of this, she must entertain herself with unusual behaviour
and actions (i.e. stealing Brians wallet and making a cereal sandwich for lunch),
which makes it challenging for her to make any real friends. She has poor social
skills and struggles to trust others, labeling herself a compulsive liar; essentially
using it as a coping mechanism. However, she shares her feelings with the group,
especially Andrew and provides them the opportunity to understand and accept her
more. Opening up to her peers makes her realize that there are people willing to
listen.
Each one of these characters may be different in regards to what their
personal life is like or the struggles they must manage, however they must face the
same versions of crises according to Erik Erikson. The members of the group realize
that they share more commonalities then they originally thought (like most
teenagers), and they are able to accept each other and grow emotionally.
Thankfully, we see some of the characters overcome their conflicts or stages.
Bender develops a romantic relationship with Claire, Andrew makes the decision to
stop listening to his father, Brian gains some self-worth and confidence and Allison
changes her appearance and begins a relationship with Andrew. The Breakfast Club
is an iconic movie that has so many identifiable psychological aspects, that not only
is a pleasure to watch but makes the viewer think on a deeper level. When a movie

like The Breakfast Club is so relatable and insightful, there is no denying that it is
one of the best movies of all time.